You don’t have to be a ballerina to keep on your toes. We may live in a big city, but our life as missionaries has already proven this fact to be true.
Change of Plans
Shortly after we sent you our last family update, we made a pretty significant change regarding our mode of transportation to Back to the Bible Mission (BBM) in Barberton, South Africa. Rather than travel by air, we decided to travel by road as this would save us significantly in travel costs. This, naturally, affected our itinerary just a little since that involves driving nearly 4,000km (2,485mi) round trip. To give our American friends some perspective on how far that is, it’s the equivalent of driving from Phoenix, AZ, to New York City, NY! Another comparison would be driving from San Diego, CA, to Orlando, FL. That is literally across the U.S. from West Coast to East Coast!
This was truly the longest road trip, both time and distance-wise, that we have taken to date as a family. Keeping our expectations in check and our toddler’s needs in mind, we chose to take two weeks, taking our time on the drive there and back so we wouldn’t stress ourselves out with being on the road for longer than necessary each day (It’s an 18-hour drive nonstop from home to the college where Hunter was to lecture). Driving also afforded us the advantage of bringing many boxes of books and literature to deliver to Back to the Bible Mission, Adullam Mission and our hosts we met on the journey.
To maximize our time, we planned other preaching opportunities with local missions, but Hunter’s primary focus was on the week of ministering to the students and staff at Back to the Bible Mission. In the lead up to our departure, Hunter continued to work energetically on the weeks’ worth of lessons, group activities, and exam.
The Adventure Begins
We left Cape Town on Friday, the 24th of August, and spent the entire day trekking up to a small town in the Orange Free State called Trompsburg. Jeremy surprised us by how well he handled being strapped in his car seat for the 10-hour drive. Our hosts warmly welcomed us with a hot meal and lively fellowship, and we were provided with a comfortable place to rest our heads for the night. The hospitality and kindness of our new friends was so encouraging and gave us a lovely prelude to what we could expect for the rest of our venture.
The next day, we drove up to Secunda, where Hunter had a speaking arrangement at Adullam Mission that evening. He had the chance to share stories from the Bible as well as the Gospel story to children of all ages. Jeremy was thoroughly delighted as he observed the children’s response to his Daddy (as was I). Hunter really came to life as he incorporated some of the youngest members of the audience to take an active role in the stories he shared. Joy and wonder were evident in many of their faces.
After we spent Sunday morning in church, worshipping together on the mission base, Jeremy became fast friends with several of the Afrikaans and Zulu children who live there. As we observed them playing together, squeals of laughter echoing in the air around us, we were instantly made aware just how much of a missionary kid Jeremy was born to be. He fits the role perfectly. I cannot begin to explain the gratitude I feel to see our son enjoy a similar childhood to the one I grew up in.
We enjoyed a wonderful meal with new friends and the mission director of Adullam Mission, Pastor Japie Malan, who had kindly welcomed us in his home during our stay there. We are so grateful to have had the chance to stay and minister at Adullam, and we look forward to visiting again in the future.
The Journey Continues
That afternoon, we made the last leg of our journey to Back to the Bible Mission near Barberton in Mpumalanga. As the previous two days had involved full days of driving, the last three-and-a-half-hour trek didn’t seem so long.
Back to the Bible Mission
From the moment we entered the gates at Back to the Bible Mission, we were overwhelmed by the kindness and hospitality of Gen. Shai and Elreza Mulder who have been directing and running BBM for the past 18 years. The Mission used to be Back to the Bible Training College but changed their name so that they may be freed from government control of their school. This also means they receive zero government funding and are a faith-based mission. All guest lecturers donate their time and teaching to the Mission, some even flying in from overseas.
BBM is an unapologetically Christ-centered college, and it’s evident in everything they do. From daily morning chapel services, to personal and group devotions, they prioritize prayer in all areas of life. Their passion for missions and evangelism is absolutely contagious. Staff and students alike strive for excellence in every aspect of their lives. Over the years, Back to the Bible has trained pastors, leaders, and missionaries from 35 different countries. They are all now impacting the continent of Africa, winning souls for the Kingdom of God.
We were able to provide The Biblical Preaching Handbook to all the staff and students, The Ten Commandments book to Hunter’s ethics students, and also pre-positioned The Greatest Century of Missions book, teaching resources, and Study Bibles for my Dad’s (Peter Hammond’s) ministry there the following week.
Every one of the staff and students who live and work there went out of their way to make us feel at home. On the first morning, a student named Dube kindly offered to take my bag up the hill to the chapel where devotions are done each morning. After chapel, he met us by the door and insisted on carrying my bag to Hunter’s classroom. We quickly realized he had been specifically assigned to help us carry anything we needed him to. On one occasion, he even carried Jeremy up the hill (since he tends to keep a pretty slow pace)! Hunter also observed a couple of students washing our car, which had become notably dirty from travel. Their servant-heartedness is both inspiring and convicting!
The culture here, as a whole, is so much more welcoming and community oriented that the western one we’ve grown accustomed to. We also felt extraordinarily safe here. Jeremy had the time of his life roaming around, making friends with every student and staff member he met, as well as playing with the sociable canines. He was pretty fascinated by the pigs that live there too! Everywhere we went, people would greet Jeremy by name. When he wasn’t with us, they’d enquire after him, clearly concerned about his whereabouts. Most refer to me as “Mama” or “Mama Jeremy,” and Hunter’s students call him “Baba” (Father). These names are titles of great respect in the African culture.
One downside of the cultural difference we experienced there is that people are more than willing to spoil your child. On the first day of teaching, Jeremy saw a student with a lollipop and boldly asked for it. From then on, he was showered with all the lollipops he could ever wish for. The few times they were handed to us, we kept them tucked away from his curious gaze. Most of the time, the students and staff lovingly lavished Jeremy with his latest lollipop fascination before we had a chance to intervene. Hunter eventually thanked his students profusely for their kindness towards our child, but asked his students to please “stop feeding the monkey!” Jeremy still asks for lollipops, but we’ve been using this as a teachable moment for us all.
The Student Becomes the Teacher
After spending his whole life either in school, college, or seminary, Hunter stepped rather naturally into the role of professor. Given the monumental task of teaching Christian Ethics to the second-year students in just four days (the fifth day was for the exam), they had to cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time. The discussions were lively as they debated on the ethics of various issues that are particularly prevalent in the African culture (sexual ethics, polygamy, bigamy, infertility, contraception, Christians in politics, etc.). It’s astounding to hear about cultural norms we’d never thought possible – especially those relating to marriage and the stigma of childlessness. At the end of the week, the students created dramas that would be used to teach Biblical ethics to their home countries. They laughed, cheered, and were fully engaged as they observed their classmates present Biblical ethics for Africa. It was very rewarding to witness all they had learned from their lectures.
I was also asked to give a message to the women at Back to the Bible. Their excitement to hear from me made it hard to be too nervous about sharing part of my story and what God has been laying on my heart this year. Gathering with these godly women and hearing their beautiful voices worship God in harmonious unity was a major highlight of the trip for me.
Blessed Beyond Expectation
This has been such a rewarding learning experience for both Hunter and me, and we are sincerely humbled and encouraged! It was an immense privilege to be invited to Back to the Bible, and we’re so thankful we could go on this mission as a family and revel in it all together. We know these times are so precious and missions like this will be more challenging to undertake once Baby Combs makes his debut. Less than two months away from our due date (November 3rd), the reality of birth is becoming ever more present. We look forward to returning to this beautiful Mission in the future. Lord willing, Jeremy, his brother, and I will be able to join then as well.
We departed from BBM after chapel, exams, and farewells to newfound friends – several of whom we will keep in contact with. We ask that you please keep Back to the Bible Mission in your prayers as they seek to serve the Lord in all they do. Their vision and mission is to train up missionaries and pastors to win Africa for Christ, and they do all this by faith, trusting in our Heavenly Father’s provision.
Kruger National Park
Friends of the Mission generously invited us to stay at their B&B in Malelane for a few nights after our stay at Back to the Bible. They’re located just eight minutes outside one of the southern gates at Kruger National Park! With BBM being only 40 minutes away from this breath-taking place, we knew we couldn’t miss the chance to see the African wildlife there. We knew with Jeremy’s love of all creatures great and small, he would relish this new experience – his first in a game reserve – and he absolutely did!
We saw four of the Big Five during our two-day trips: elephants, rhino, buffalo, and lions. The elusive leopard continued to escape our efforts of finding him. We were fortunate enough to see many animals up close and even found ourselves in the midst of a massive herd of elephants at one point. The exquisitely wonderful variety of creatures we saw was incredible, and we are so thankful we had the chance to visit this game park while in the area.
Afterwards, we began the long journey towards Cape Town, but we chose to go along the famed Garden Route on the East Coast for the last couple of days, enjoying the beautiful scenery the drive had to offer.
We drove from Malelane to Bloemfontein (about a 10-hour commute) and then from Bloemfontein to Plettenberg Bay the following day (which took us nearly 10 hours as well). Those were the hardest days of travel overall, but God kept us safe despite the dark, absurdly misty, and treacherous mountain road we had to drive for the last two hours of our drive to Plett. When our view of the road ahead was obscured entirely, we pulled to the side of the road and prayed fervently. As we began to progress again, the fog began to lift and soon was gone entirely! In that moment, He reminded us of the Scripture, “Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my Path” (Psalm 119:105).
The heartfelt hospitality we received throughout our trek to Back to the Bible Mission and on the way home reminded us of what community is meant to look like. Although we had heard of our hosts through our family and friends in ministry, before meeting them, we didn’t know any of them personally. Yet, they were all willing to open up their homes, feed us, and care for us so well. We keep them all in our prayers and are so thankful to have met them.
Home At Last
On Saturday evening, after two weeks on the road, we were thrilled to gaze upon the beautiful Cape landscape once again. We don’t know if it’s ever felt so good to be home, and yet our hearts are grateful for the wonderful and unexpected happenings we encountered. Our minds are similarly reflecting on the new memories we’ve gathered as a family.
We thank God for you and for the irreplaceable part you play in our lives. Please continue to keep us and the ministry at Frontline Fellowship in your prayers.
With much love in Christ,
Hunter, Andrea, Jeremy and Baby Combs